Thursday, September 24, 2009

Should we observe the Sabbath on Saturday?

I have heard much debate over what day of the week God insists we observe as a Sabbath. This isn't a new debate but existed after the church had lost revelatory direction (ie no one was worthy of revelation from God any more). At least three concepts emerged during this time, and still are debated today. This subject may seem very confusing, so I hope the following will clear this up for you. Even though what I'm about to present is involved I will endeavour to make it simple at the time of conclusion. These three arguments are 1. That we must have a Sabbath day on Saturday. 2. That we must have a Sabbath day on Sunday. 3. That it doesn't matter what day you observe it on, as long as you have one.

This particular post will only be examining the concept of whether we should be holding our Sabbath days on Saturday. I will get to the rest in further posts.

Talk about people being sun worshippers because they worship on Sunday and other such superstitious nonsense will be avoided: Using such logic I would therefore have to conclude a person worshipping on Saturday to be a Saturn worshipper - as Saturday is named after Saturn. Also the claim that the sun is symbolic of the light of the gospel and so worshipping on Sunday brings us out of spiritual darkness is an argument to the ignorant. So I will be sticking to logical arguments from Scripture only.

Let's look at the Scriptures quoted by those trying to prove that you MUST worship on Saturday.

"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Genesis 2:1-3

This is quoted to point out that God has had a Sabbath, and to propose that because the Jews honoured the Sabbath on Saturday at the time of Christ, it must have been a Saturday that God honoured at the creation. I will come back to examining this claim when the other scriptures have been presented.

"In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre." Mark 16:1-2&9 "And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun." & "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils." Luke 23:54-56 "And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment." Matthew 28:1

These are quoted to suggest that Christ rested on the Sabbath day, which at this time was a Saturday. However, firstly, Saturday was the day that they were holding their Sabbath. Therefore even if this was a demonstration of a Sabbath rest, it doesn't hold that he would not have rested on Thursday (for example) had the Jews observed that day. The rest of this interpretation could only be the case if there is no doubt that A. Christ stayed in the tomb, and actually did rest: B. That he only spent the Sabbath (one day) in the tomb: and C. That he stayed in the tomb to demonstrate a Sabbath rest. However all of these are questionable. A. I Peter 3:18-19 suggests that when put to death Christ's spirit went and preached to spirits. B. It is proposed that when Christ said he would spend three days in the earth that he must have meant Friday night, Saturday and the night, and the beginning of Sunday. But is this true? In Matthew 12:40 Christ said, "For as Jonas was three days and three NIGHTS in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three NIGHTS in the heart of the earth." This means all Thursday, all Friday and then all Saturday. Then to rise on Sunday morning. Confusion arises because the Scriptures talk of the body needing to be quickly buried because of the coming Sabbath. But the coming Sabbath spoken of wasn't the weekly Sabbath (in the law of Moses there were several Sabbaths, not just the weekly one). That year there was another Sabbath due on Thursday. So he was crucified on Wednesday and quickly buried to be "in the heart of the earth" for the three days and nights and arose Saturday night to be already risen when the women came to the tomb Sunday morning. C. Neither Christ, any of the apostles with him nor Paul (ie the New Testament) ever claimed Christ stayed in the tomb to demonstrate a Sabbath rest. Which they would have done had it been a point Christ wished to demonstrate.

Luke 4:16 states regarding Christ, "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read."

This is presented to show that Christ had a custom of going into synagogues on the Sabbath day (a Saturday at this time). Two points stand out regarding this. Firstly he spent 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2) not going to the synagogue on a Saturday. Secondly he obviously would obey the Law of Moses and observe the Sabbath on the Saturday they were observing it on. This, again, doesn't prove that a Sabbath must be held on Saturday.

Revelation 1:10 "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet." Along with this is quoted Ephesians 3:9 "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ."

It is stated that the Lord made the Sabbath in the beginning (during creation). Then this Sabbath is associated with this quote of the Lord's day (saying it must be the same day). Then it is proposed that because Saturday was the Sabbath at the time of Christ and the Lord made the Sabbath originally, that this Lord's day is a Saturday. This is pure supposition however. I should briefly point out here that there isn't even any evidence that the original Sabbath was a Saturday (as this claims).

"For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day." Matthew 12:8

This is quoted to present the idea that Christ ("the Son of Man") is here accepting the Sabbath (Saturday) as important and his. However when we look at what he is talking about we find very differently. Verse 1 of this chapter has stated, "At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat." Christ then mentions to the Pharisees (who were accusing him of letting his apostles break the Sabbath) of people breaking the law where necessary, to justify his apostles breaking the Sabbath commandment. An example being verse 5, "Or haven't you read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?" So in verse 8 he is stating his ability to ignore the Sabbath, as its Lord.

"But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates" Exo 20:10

No one denies the existence of the Sabbath commandment in the law. But this states nothing about this day being observed on a Saturday. Nor do any Old Testament books claim that Saturday was the day they observed, at the time Moses gave the law to them.

"But pray you that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day" Matt 24:20

This is used to present that the Sabbath was still observed after Christ (as this was presented regarding the future - particularly just before Christ's coming). It is then proposed that this Sabbath must be the Saturday then observed. We would have to ask, though, why would people be worried about fleeing on a Saturday (these days) when they aren't even observing a Sabbath on Saturday? There are more people observing other days as Sabbaths in Jerusalem today. Then there is the point that we still don't have a statement here that Saturday is the day this Sabbath would be on. On top of that we have no statement that Saturday is the day it has to be on. So it's still all speculation and unstated inference (ie no statement of Saturday at all).

"For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, says the LORD." Isaiah 66:22-23

This speaks in future tense and mentions the observance of Sabbaths. It should be noted, on the other hand though, that it also mentions new moons (an observance of the Law of Moses not practiced today). So it is questionable whether this pertains to a time after Christ (remembering this was written around 700 years before his birth). All that aside, we again have nothing about a Sabbath being on Saturday (the object of the claim).

"And he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" Mark 2:27-28

What is Christ presenting here? He was answering those who were complaining because of him healing on the Sabbath. He has stated that the Sabbath was made to serve man, not man being made to serve the Sabbath. In other words people are more important than the Sabbath day. Should we then believe that this same Christ will send people to hell for holding their Sabbath on some specific day of the week?

"And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Gen 2:23-24

With this it is stated that as God hasn't changed this law of marriage given just after the creation neither has he changed his Sabbath given at this time also. And therefore he wouldn't change the day. But we know that God has given different laws to different people depending on their readiness to observe them. Hebrews 3:16-4:2 tells us that the people that Moses lead out of Egypt had the gospel of Christ preached to them, but they rejected it. Thus God gave them what is termed "the Law of Moses". Sacrifices also became unnecessary with Christ having come and demonstrating their point. So God has changed laws given. And therefore why would I believe that something as simple as what day of a week something is done on, could not easily be changed - if we are to believe that was originally a Saturday anyway?

"And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath." & "And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God." Act 13:42&44

Here we have Paul and Barnabas attending a Jewish synagogue. But did they attend it to honour the Sabbath day on Saturday or did they attend to preach to the Jews there? Some may argue, "both". This isn't stated either way. But two things come to mind. Firstly Acts 21:24&26 has Paul going into the temple and purifying himself ready to do sacrifices. These things were no longer necessary observances. Yet Paul did them so that it could not be said that he had no respect for the law (verse 24). Attendance at a synagogue would say exactly the same. Secondly he not only preached to the Jews there, but the Gentiles showed interest also. Where could he find a better audience to preach to? So to claim that their purpose in going to the synagogue was to worship God on Saturday is a guess at best. Whatever we believe it would be purposeless to go on another day, because Saturday is the day that people would be there for a service.

"And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures." Acts 17:2

This isn't saying anything different, but just mentions that going into synagogues and reasoning with them was his "manner" (something he did). In fact it points more to the idea that he was there for that specific purpose rather than to honor Saturday.

In summary of this subject the only reasonably provable argument is that Christ was brought up going on Saturday and didn't say anything in objection to the day of the week he was observing. Yet this argument can only have possible merit if we are to believe that God now insists that we practice it on some other day of the week (such as Sunday) instead - thus making the particular day observed an issue.

This idea seems to be an example of where Christ warned to beware of the leaven (added ideas) of the Pharisees.

I'll come to the Sunday only concept next.

Monday, September 14, 2009

An Examination of Hebrews Chapter 7

1 "This Melchizedek was King of Salem and priest of the God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him,"
2 "To whom also Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means 'King of righteousness'; then also, 'King of Salem' meaning 'King of peace.'"

Some confusion arises here by the term "King of peace." Some wonder if this is Christ being spoken of. Yet Christ is referred to as the "Prince of Peace' not "King of Peace." I would interpret this as saying that the word "Salem" means "peace."

This confusion continues into the next verse.

3 "Without father, without mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever."

Some ask whether this refers to Christ? But the answer to this is answered simply.

We have 3 statements _

(a). "Without father." Is this true that Christ was "without father?"

Matt 16:16 answers this question - "And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Also refer Matt 14:33, 8:29 and 26:63

(b). "Without mother." Was Christ "without mother?"

Matt 1:18 answers this question - "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary...." Also refer Matt 1:23 & 25, 2:11 & 13, Luke 1:30-31

(c). "Without genealogy."

Matt 1:1 "The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Also refer Matt 21:9, Isa 11:1 and Jer 23:5

As a spirit Christ was also the Son of God.

"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firsborn of every creature."

Also the text states in regard Melchizedek that LIKE the Son of God he remains a priest forever. So this doesn't come over as if he is speaking of Melchizedek as the Son of God.

The text states that the Melchizedek priesthood remains with people who are given it forever. As it is eternal it seems logical to conclude that this reference is to the priesthood itself, and that the holder maintains it continuously as it has no beginning or end.

4 "Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!"

This makes reference to the greatness of Melchizedek.

5 "Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people--that is, their brothers--even though their brothers are descended from Abraham."

Only those of the tribe of Levi could become priests (whether Aaronic or Levitical priesthood). Aaron was also of the tribe of Levi (he and Moses were great grandchildren of Levi). And as the other tribes of Israel were also children of Jacob (Israel) and he was the grandson of Abraham, all tribes of Israel are brothers.

6 "This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises."
7 "And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater."

In spite of not being of Levi, Melchizedek collected tithes from Abraham and blessed him. Therefore Melchizedek must have been greater than Abraham.

8 "In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living."

The Levitical priesthood dies when the person does. But Melchizedek's priesthood (the Melchizedek priesthood) is eternal and so remains with him even though he is physically dead ("he remains a priest forever" verse 3).

9 "One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham,"
10 "because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor."

Abraham was the Great-great-great-great Grandfather of Levi, through whom the priests at Paul's time could all attribute their priesthood, and as Abraham was paying tithing to Melchizedek, so Levi, in a sense, paid tithing to the holder of the greater priesthood.

11 "If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come--one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?"
12 "For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law."

Paul is presenting that a greater priesthood can only be necessary where a greater law is given.

13 "He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar."
14 "For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests."

The Jews were descended from Judah, which was Levi's brother. Jews had no right to priesthood. All priesthood holders were from the tribe of Levi. John the Baptist was a descendant of Aaron, for example (of Levi). Thus he had authority to baptise. Jesus, being of Judah, was from a tribe not entitled to priesthood.

15 "And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears,"
16 "one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life."
17 "For it is declared: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'"
18 "The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless"
19 "(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God."

So the new priesthood for the gospel is the Melchizedek priesthood; and the lower priesthoods aren't required within it (though we use the Aaronic priesthood for preparing men for the greater priesthood).

20 "And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath,"
21 "but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.'""

God made a promise that holders of the Melchizedek priesthood would have that priesthood forever. But to the lesser priesthood holders no such promise was given.

22 "Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant."

Because God gave this promise in regard to Melchizedek priesthood holders and Jesus has that priesthood also, we can have a guarantee that the ordinances Jesus did are permanent.

23 "Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office;"

Again Paul is reminding us that the death of a priest of the other priesthoods ends their priesthood rights.

24 "but because he continues, he has an everlasting priesthood."

The meaning of this sentence isn't very clear in English. What he is saying is in line with the whole course of the conversation here. He is really saying that because the priesthood that Jesus has continues, rather than ending at death, and he (Jesus) holds that priesthood, it is everlasting.

25 "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."

This idea that Jesus always "lives" may seem a little odd, as many were resurrected also when Jesus was resurrected, and could also be said to be always alive. But this refers to the fact that he is alive with the ever living priesthood (as Paul has been demonstrating throughout the conversation) which allows him to make constant intercession.

26 "Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens."
27 "Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself."
28 "For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever."

Here Paul is pointing out that Jesus is the perfect one to interceed. He points out that the other priests that are under the law have to keep making sacrifices for their own sins, as they are spiritually weak. But now God has given us this perfect priesthood of promise (the Melchizedek priesthood), for those no longer under the law, he has, with it, appointed a priest that is perfect forever also.

It must be remembered that sacrifices weren't the only calling of a priest. He had to do such things as declare lepers free of leprocy. They had judgement callings also. Revelation was required by the President of the priesthood (Chief High priest). Baptism required such, as does the sacrament/communion.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Deeper Examination of Priesthood and lines of Authority - Ecclesiology

Ecclesiology (priesthood offices) relative to God is far more than ecclesiology within the church structure itself. This also looks at personal ecclesiology with God.

Relative to members, the church is an organisation where people can be certain of having the correct ordinances done as God would have them. This is important so that the true meaning of symbols can be found (as the symbol is done correctly and with the right words). Also it ensures that all necessary ordinances are performed. For new members the church provides a doctrinal beginning. For weak members it provides a continual source of basic instruction. Also it gives opportunities for service to others. It provides a forum for religious education for families and individuals. Along with this it provides a system of emotional and physical support. Then there are social and sporting activities.

However the church is only where we start our trip to God. And this must be remembered in this examination. Each person must create their own personal relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. That becomes the “church” that is going to matter to each person. Each member must make themselves a prophet of God in their church (whether male or female). They must seek to walk and talk with God face to face. And be in tune with the Holy Ghost to obtain direction as required. Then secondly men must create a church of their family and become the prophet of that also. THEN we get to the LDS church.

To explain this point more clearly - some may question why it is that I believe in the church and yet this or that person in authority made this or that mistake? But my belief ISN’T in church people. My belief is in the Godhead. I have failed them, they have never failed me. I have been wrong, but they are ALWAYS right. Yet church leaders will fail. They will get things wrong. D&C 121 makes that extremely clear. But God never will. Christ set up the church as his church for us. So I fully support it and those in positions of responsibility (within the realms of their authority), regardless of their faults.

My doctrine is built on revelation and guidance that I have received while I read the Scriptures, hear talks at church and talk with Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost. So the ecclesiology that is most important to me as an LDS is my priestly position in my personal church to God. God could send me out into the desert for the rest of my life, never to see the church again, and my spirituality wouldn’t be affected in the slightest, because God is there too.

Having made that clear (hopefully) I turn to ecclesiology in the church.

The church itself isn’t a monarchy with a leader that tells everyone what they will believe about everything in their own personal church. Nor are the local leaders to establish what members will believe. While some local leaders may tend to see themselves this way due to worldly influences (D&C 121:39), it isn’t the way it is intended (D&C 121:37). The church is a theocratic democracy. Thus it is called the Church of Jesus Christ (theocratic) of Latter-Day Saints (democracy).

Yet there is a responsibility placed upon local leaders to ensure that things stated from the pulpit and by teachers don’t seriously conflict with Scripture (our standards for belief).

This situation was also demonstrated by the early Apostles, who had varying opinions about doctrine and what commandments to obey. Circumcision and food offered to idols were two of these subjects. While decisions were reached on some subjects, disputes still went on. So there is some degree of flexibility of doctrine and personal feelings on what level of commandments to follow and how. In other words, while it is necessary to obey basic commandments to maintain church membership, there is no actual doctrinal domination beyond extreme basics. This is in harmony with the principle that we are to learn the truth line upon line and precept upon precept, individually.

The crux is that Christ can only give, the church generally, doctrinal understanding and commandments according to the ability of the Saints to accept and obey those concepts and commandments (1 Cor 3:1-3, D&C 89:3, D&C 119 Heading, Heb 4:2). These general concepts and commandments given to the Saints come through revelation to the President of the Melchizedek Priesthood for the church (termed “The Prophet”). In reality the church should be full of prophets. And there certainly are many in the church. Prophecy is one gift of the Spirit.

So as far as doctrine goes, while an individual may be able to speak on behalf of God relative to revelation he/she has received on a particular subject, no one can authoritatively speak on behalf of over 13 million people, in regard anything but extremely basic concepts. Beside this point the amount of subjects to cover and knowledge in each required by any one person to be able to do so proficiently, would be beyond comprehension. i.e. the enormous web of interlocked concepts within the church’s theology and the depth you could go to on so many is virtually endless. Then there would be the problem of passing many immensely deep concepts onto the general membership and having them be able to understand them. It would be as ridiculous as taking a five year old starting school and getting them to do a doctorate.

However God has chosen some great individuals to fill the office of “The Prophet” in these latter days. Though it has to be remembered also that if God has an Elijah (similar type person) living today he obviously wouldn’t make him “The Prophet”, as it would be hard to explain a man not dying (for starters). Different people grow by different challenges. So I don’t believe God always chooses the most righteous and knowledgeable person on earth in choosing “The Prophet”. But chooses the most appropriate person available, that wouldn’t be held back by such position.

There is a quorum of 12 Apostles, who are called to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ. “The Prophet” usually has 2 councillors, who are also Apostles. “The Prophet” is also an Apostle. The church works opposite from the world in that “The Prophet” is at the bottom serving all. Then the 12 Apostles are next up the line, and so on until the general membership, who are at the top, being served the most. The membership all sustain these servants, by raised hand, twice yearly.

There are 2 priesthoods available at this time. That is the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. Present offices within the Aaronic Priesthood are deacon, teacher and priest. Present offices within the Melchizedek Priesthood are elder and high priest. As impressive as the latter may sound it is extremely common in the church. Offices generally come by age provided the recipient is worthy.

The Aaronic Priesthood is organised by the bishop of each “ward” (collection of Saints in a prescribed area). Whereas the Melchizedek Priesthood is organised by the Stake President. A “stake” contains several wards.

Women don’t receive these priesthoods, as their callings are in a different direction. God has never had any desire to turn women into pseudo men or visa-versa.

The priesthood is a line of authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ. There are “keys” (automatic right to revelation for an office) associated with callings within the priesthood. That is all that priesthood is. Yet these 2 things are extremely important to running the church.

There is a power within us that can be used while using the priesthood for healing etc: Sort of like the power in a power cord situation - the cord (priesthood) isn’t the power (electricity) but the power is IN the cord when the power is switched on through personal righteousness and faith.

Mostly independent of priesthood office there are callings within the church. These are positions of service within the church which I would have to include in a discussion on ecclesiology, as they are part of the administrative structure. There are so many I will just describe each general area.

There is Relief Society and Young Women’s for women, Primary for children, Sunday School for all and Priesthood Quorums for men. Sporting, social and education also have administrative structures, usually reporting to the Stake leader. Then there are missions, administered through a different structure from the wards and stake. Also the Church Education System is separate, yet the bishop chooses the actual ward seminary teacher. But all these eventually report to the Apostles, and from there to “The Prophet”. So it is a branched out organisation, not a single line.